Uganda: Opposition Legislative Agenda- 2021-2026; Electoral Reforms Tops the List

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Leader of Opposition, Mathias Mpuga in Gulu City recently

The Leader of Opposition (LoP), Mathias Mpuga, speaking at Ker Kwaro Acholi during a nationwide tour recently
Courtesy photo by Patrick Uma Lakermon
Summery- Part One

A: Introduction
Uganda’s opposition in the eleventh Parliament is composed of six different political parties, namely, National Unity Platform (NUP), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Democratic Party (DP), Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC), Justice Forum (JC) and Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP). The NUP party has more number of MPs than the rest and therefore the Leader of Opposition (LoP), Hon Mathias Mpuga comes from NUP as the 1995 Constitution stipulates.

Uganda’s politics has known the role of initiating policy making mainly as a preserve of the Executive, while Opposition has mostly been associated with the intention to prevent rather than shape policy. However social contract with the citizenry enjoins them to legislate not in our interest, but the interest of constituencies and he nation as a whole which requires bipartisan support as consensus to improve governance and service delivery.

B. Electoral Reforms
Ugandans were consulted on electoral reforms in 2014 and it resulted in the development of Citizen Compact that detailed the citizen’s aspiration on free and fair elections. However, when the documents were presented in Parliament, they were underplayed by government under the guise of constituting a constitutional review commission. To date, the commission remains to be an inspiration ol government.

Besides the Constitutional (Amendment Bill) 2019 that contains some of the reforms presented by Hon Nwagaba Wilfred, efforts will be undertaken to pass the Bill and the opposition in the proposal, registration of Ugandans in the Diaspora and prisons, competitive recruitment of leaders of constitutional bodies, fixing terms of office of commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission. Others are reduction of the size of Parliament, interest groups, restriction of supplementary expenditures during election periods, role of security organs in elections, relinquishing public assets during campaigns, media coverage of candidates during campaigns and transmission of election results.

Relatedly, Uganda lacks a clearly defined transitional procedure for both leadership and aspirations of government and there is no timeline for end of office holding. The incumbent continues to exercise powers of Head of State, head of government, Commander- In-Chief (CIC), chairman of the National Security Council and of Chairman of The National Resistance Movement (NRM) ruling party. The opposition also wants the electoral Commission to play its constitutional role during transition process and have powers over an incumbent president and further guarantee its independence.

C. Whereas Ugandans recommended for the decentralization of power by devolution of power from center to the local areas to enable people to participate in the running and development of their areas, they contend that “decentralization” has been abandoned and instead there is “recentralization” as a tool for political patronage. Even the “Regional Tier System” suffered a stillbirth.

The National Objectives and Direct Principles of State Policy in the 1995 Constitution provides that the State shall be guided by the principle of decentralization and devolution of government functions and powers to the people of appropriate levels. They therefore want a debate that will evolve a formula for sharing resources and responsibilities beyond the “dolling out” of responsibility without a framework properly sealed without room for the center to maneuver and recall the devolved commitments.

They intend to seek comprehensive Constitutional Reforms to include review of special interest groups, army representation in Parliament, procedure for presidential appointments, modalities of creating constituencies and the mechanism of restricting the military to its primary roles and obligations.

D. Operationalization of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy
The 2005 Constitutional Review Commission recommended the enactment of the National Objectives and Direct Principles of State Policy as the conscience of the Constitution which can be described as broad goals or ideals to be achieved and the Directive Principles as the measure for achieving those goals which give clear vision of the direction in which the country should developed..

They were included in the Constitution to safeguard the basic values and fundamental policies agreed upon by the people to guide future governments. Objectives and Principles were expected to guide all organs and agencies of State in the implementation of policies and the interpretation of the Constitution and other laws. However the Constituency Assembly opted to delete the chapter stipulating the Objectives and Principles thereby making them merely declaratory, but fortunately, in the 2005 Constitutional Amendments, the Objectives and Principles were declared to be part of the Constitution and instrumental in the implementation of the Constitution. The Opposition intends to initiate a comprehensive Bill seeking to operationalize the Objectives and Principles so as to ingrain people’s aspirations in our constitutional edict.

It is only through this that the State will respond to citizen’s needs, will “organically link” the State and society, define the role of society and to identify the duties of the State and purposes for which power is exercised.
…to be continued next week

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